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August 18, 1996|Steve Hochman

STAR TIME: Can Kenny (Babyface) Edmonds get any more famous? Or busy?

The answer to both, with the release of his third solo album, "The Day," set for Oct. 22, is a resounding "yes."

Edmonds knows quite well the upper reaches of fame--as the hottest producer-songwriter in pop, with Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton and Michael Jackson among those who have called upon his multi-platinum touch, he's seen up close the pluses and minuses of mega-stardom. He'll gladly take more of the former, but not if it means more of the latter.

"Kenny says that if the album sells 10 million, great," says his manager, Benny Medina. "But if it does, it will be because of the music, not because of over-hyping it. He doesn't want his music to get lost in hype."

That's not an unrealistic possibility, with the album coming at the perfect time to, as Medina puts it, make the most of the "celebrity associated with his work with Whitney and Toni and the 'Waiting to Exhale' soundtrack."

With a combination of Edmonds' rising stock, his unquestionable artistic instincts and guest-star appearances on the album by Mariah Carey, Jody Watley, LL Cool J, Eric Clapton, Boyz II Men and Howard Hewitt, there's a buzz in the music industry that this could be among the top-sellers of the fall season.

But Edmonds doesn't seem to be slowing down his pace as a producer, currently finishing up an album with Eric Clapton (with whom he collaborated on the current hit song "Change the World" from the "Phenomenon" soundtrack) and a song with Michael Jackson for Spike Lee's upcoming film "Get on the Bus," about the Million Man March. He's also still involved day to day with the quite successful company LaFace, the record label he runs with his former writing and production partner Antonio (L.A.) Reid.

And soon he will take on the duties of a parent, with the birth of a son imminent.

Where that ranks in his life is clear from the album, Medina says, with the emotional title song inspired by his "current joy of marriage and the fact that he's about to have his first son. . . . That was the real creative leap-off point for this record."

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